So I was approached by Carl on email in January and this is what he said: “My name is Carl Towns and I am 28 years old. Just to tell you a little bit about me, I have been sober for 4 and a half years now, I was an alcoholic and I was addicted to some party drugs like cocaine, it has been a hard battle but it has also been worth it, little by little I have gotten bits and pieces of my life back and that’s something I am grateful for every day. About two months ago my sponsor suggested I should start a new healthy habit, back in the day I was pretty good at writing so I thought I would write to you to let you know that I would love to contribute to your blog. I would be honored if I could guest post for your blog and here I have attached a piece called ‘5 ways to help a loved one face addiction’.”
Over to Carl:
When we think someone we love is struggling with addiction, be it alcohol or drugs, our first caring instincts kick in and we want to help them in any possible way. However, addiction is a disease that if not handled correctly, can end up with devastating effects for the addicted person and his/her loved ones. Especially for the closest people like spouses or children.
If you go about it the wrong way you might end up allowing them to revel in their addiction. If what you truly desire is doing what would be best for them and the people they love, then the tips below will provide guidance regarding how to help your loved one face addiction and seek the help he/she needs.
1. Knowledge is Power
You need to know your enemy in order to face it. Addiction is a very complex disease, so one of the best things for you to do is learn all that you can about it in order to help and support the person you love.
Dig into family therapies that focus on the partners of addicts and alcoholics. Reach out to 12 Steps support groups or fellowships; basically read all you can about it, including literature; another great thing is to go into support blogs or forums where you can find good advice for people that were in the same place that you are right now.
2. Judgment is Damaging
As mentioned previously, and contrary to popular belief, addiction is a powerful disease and should not be deemed as mere weakness or moral shortcoming. When you internalize this, you will be able to help your loved one by avoiding thoughts and comments such as:
- “If they really loved me, they would have quit already.”
- “All he/she needs to do is have some willpower.”
- “They have to stop using or drinking for their job… our children… for me, etc.”
- “How is it possible that they just keep on doing this?”
If a cancer patient does not have to option to just quit cancer, neither can an addict just quit an addiction, impotence is the very foundation that defines addiction. No matter how much you beg or plead; shout, discuss or argue with them. It’s simply not the cure for it.
To put it short, they need professional help. So, in order for you to be able to cope with the toxic symptoms of their sickness; the best thing to do is motivate them to seek that professional help.
3. The Dangers of Enabling
When you are in love or in a relationship with a person struggling with addiction, you often get thrown into a caretaking role. You are the one who ends up fixing or cleaning up their messes. However, in doing so you are shielding them from the consequences that arise naturally as a result of their actions. Be honest with yourself and see if any of this seems familiar to you:
- You offer them financial support such as taking care of their rent or car payment; maybe even health insurance.
- You feel compelled to look after them so you make sure they don’t miss any appointments or important events such as court dates and similar affairs.
- You put a good face or make excuses for them in front of the family, their job or school.
- You take care of their problems like paying the lawyer’s fee or covering a fine and even hospital bills.
If any or all of the above apply to you right now, STOP. Immediately.
When repercussions and consequences are constantly avoided. An addicted individual will never find any motivation for transformation. They will feel free to use and drink, they know they will make it without any negative consequences because you are there to cover for them.
On the other side, when they are exposed to the organic development their actions have had and see themselves forced to deal with the consequences. That will be an important moment for them when facing family and when really starting understanding how grave and painful the situation really is.
4. Set Up an Intervention
At the moment you are ready to stop supporting the person’s addiction, gather all close family and friends and set up a structured intervention. All the people present must be granted the opportunity to speak to the person. Some goals to have in mind:
- Let the person suffering from addiction know just how much you and everyone around them has been negatively affected by their constant substance abuse.
- Let the addict now what would be the real consequences that will transpire should they not accept help such as withdrawal of financial support, end of relationships, loss of custody in case of children, etc.
- You need to be absolutely ready to go through with these stipulations if they refuse the help.
- Always bring in a professional in the field of interventions. They have the experience, training, and skills for this type of situations. They will be able to be understanding but very direct to them and not get judgemental or emotional.
- Hopefully, the person will accept to get help; if so they need to depart immediately otherwise may regret it soon after and they’ll start seeking excuses why they can’t go anymore. For this very reason, it is highly recommended that you have been in contact previously with a rehabilitation center that has already agreed to take them in and are standing by waiting for them.
- Should they refuse the help, you need to be true to your word and follow through with the consequences you warned them about until the moment they are ready for help. It might seem like overdoing, however, the so-called “tough love” is sometimes the only way to effectively reach a person suffering from addiction.
5. Be Their Pillar in the Recovery Process
The road to recovery is a very tough one, it requires all the strength of the addicted person and his/her loved ones. It takes a lot of work.
The first major obstacle is the period of withdrawal which often comes with a supply of very nasty symptoms; your loved one will most likely express how they are unfitted for the task and how they are posed for imminent failure. This is where your support comes in. Encourage them, let them know they are strong and capable enough to get through this. Let them know how proud you are of them for embarking on the road to recovery.
Stick to the advice the professionals at the rehab center will give you:
- Most facilities have an initial “Zero Contact” rule for a set period of time. Respect this clause and let your partner stay focused on his/her recovery.
- When you resume contact, focus on positivity. Do not smother them with problems.
- Do not encourage them if they are talking about exiting the program early. Examples of this include offering them a ride from the rehab center or even money to help with settlement.
- Don’t miss family meetings
When they reach the end of their residential program and start in-depth outpatient treatment, this is where you can begin to offer them assistance if needed. The process of recovery is their responsibility alone. However, just as you use to enable their addiction, you can and should enable their recovery:
- If they can’t drive, offer them a ride or perhaps gift them a bus pass.
- Offer to babysit their children when they have to attend therapy sessions or AA/NA meetings.
- If their schedule is filled with various activities related to recovery is possible they don’t have time to cook at all. A Homemade meal and great company can be very much appreciated.
- Do not stop attending 12 Step support groups.
Addiction is a very lonely disease, and recovery can be a very tough path to follow through without a loving and strong support system behind it.
If you know of someone close to you who is battling addiction, it is very important that you encourage them to seek professional help as soon as possible, for their sake, yours and sake of all his/her loved ones.
Have you ever had someone struggle with addiction? What are the stories you know? let us know in the comments below.
Thanks Carl for sharing your writing! I have personally not been involved in an intervention and the treatment centre where I volunteered and worked believed in self-determination so a client would come in of their own volition because they wanted to get clean and sober for themselves.